(Kuala Lumpur, Wednesday): Two Sundays ago, the billionaire editor-in-chief of the New Sunday Times, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin wrote a very tendentious piece about me in his weekly column "Other Thots", which started thus:
"Is it not a curiosity that neither the public nor the judiciary seems to take exception to the constant allegations by the DAP secretary-general and Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang that his son, Lim Guan Eng, is a victim of injustice?"
Is this a curiosity? It is a curiosity only if my statement that Guan Eng is a victim of injustice is false and untrue - and the judiciary and even the public must take exception and even take up the cudgels against such a travesty of the truth.
It is not a curiosity if what I said is "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth", and the public and even members of the judiciary agree that although Guan Eng had gone through the legal process and "duly tried by the various courts and defended by a formidable team of lawyers before he was found guilty and sent to jail", he is is a victim of injustice.
In my speech for the launch of the DAP’s nation-wide "Justice For All" campaign on January 12, 1999, which Kadir Jasin had taken objection, I had said that I had no doubt that if a national opinion poll was held among Malaysians regardless of race, religion, sex or age as to whether Guan Eng should be jailed for what he had done to defend the honour, dignity, human rights and women rights of an underaged 15-year-old girl victim of statutory rape against the powerful and mightly, the verdict would be an overwhelming "No"!
Malaysians gathered here tonight can represent the general public to declare whether they regard Guan Eng a victim of injustice and I have no doubt about the verdict.
(When asked to declare by show of hands whether Guan Eng is a victim of injustice,a sea of hands came up from the the capacity crowd of over a thousand people demonstrating an unanimous answer in the positive)
If Kadir dares to run an opinion poll in the New Sunday Times whether Guan Eng is a victim of injustice, I also have no doubt about the outcome of such a poll.
What is a real "curiosity" is that the editor-in-chief of one of the national newspapers in the country cannot read what the overwhelming majority of Malaysians feel and see. May be this is one result of becoming a billionaire editor-in-chief!
Guan Eng has from Kajang Prison sent a letter through his wife, Betty Chew, in reply to Kadir Jasin’s "Other Thots". Let us wait until Sunday to see whether Guan Eng’s letter is published and whether Kadir Jasin understands the meaning of justice.
Kadir Jasin should understand that when there is such a huge chasm between the perceptions of the overwhelming majority of Malaysians about justice and what is meted out by the legal system in the country, we are in the thick of a grave crisis of confidence in the institutions of law and justice in Malaysia.
This is why former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s "black eye" and other injuries as a result of police assault while under police custody have become such a cause celebre in Malaysia and the world - for if a person who was until recently the occupant of the second highest government post in the country could be manhandled and assaulted by the police in the very inner sanctum of the police high command, and for four months, the authorities concerned could not find out the police person or persons responsible, how can ordinary Malaysians feel safe at all when they fall into the hands of the police if they ran afoul of the law or otherwise?
Today, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has finally bowed to the inevitable and consented to the establishment of a commission of inquiry into Anwar’s black eye and other injuries inflicted by the police while under police custody.
The Commission of Inquiry should have been set up four months ago as the attempts to cover up the police brutality, and Mahathir’s ill-advised remarks that Anwar’s injuries could have been self-inflicted to seek national and international sympathy, had shaken public confidence in the independence, integrity and professionalism of instruments of governments to their very roots.
I do not know the terms of reference and powers of the commission of inquiry, but it should hold public hearings and summon publicly investigate not only the police high command, including the then Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, the four Directors of Special Branch, Internal Security and Public Order, Management and Criminal Investigation Department, but also Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in his capacity as Home Minister at the time.
Anwar’s "black eye" inflicted by the police, however, is not the only injustice suffered by the former Deputy Prime Minister.
Another is the flagrant injustice in the handling of the Anwar case when the prosecution amended the four corruption charges against Anwar on the 45th day of the trial at the end of the prosecution case.
As a result of the last-minute amendment of the charges by the prosecution, High Court Judge Datuk S. Augustine Paul expunged all evidence adduced in the 45-day trial to prove or rebut prosecution accusations that Anwar had engaged in homosexual acts or had an affair.
This meant the defence could not respond to this evidence in either its submission or if it has to call witnesses to answer the prosecution case, although during the 45-day trial, Anwar’s reputation as well as of others had been smeared and stained with the most lurid details about sex, sodomy and semen.
Many questions immediately come to mind, among them:
Unfortunately, the response of the overwhelming majority of Malaysians to the latest development in the Anwar case is that it is gross and flagrant injustice to Anwar, whatever its legality.
When I visited Datin Seri Dr. Azizah Ismail during her Hari Raya Puasa Open House, I had called on the Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah to reconsider the prosecution objection to the granting of bail to Anwar Ibrahim and to allow him to be with his family, if necessary, confined to his Damansara Heights residence.
I said the Attorney-General should undertake such a review especially in view of the 32-page written judgement of the Court of Appeal Justice Datuk N.H. Chan on 16th January 1999 as Anwar’s case has put the Malaysian system of justice in the spotlight, nationally and internationally, and it is incumbent on the part of the Attorney-General to ensure that justice is not only done, but is seen to be done.
For this reason, regardless of the provisions of the law at the moment, if justice is lacking, the Attorney-General is duty-bound as the chief legal officer of the land to consider what remedial measures could be taken to ensure that justice can be done.
Although the Court of Appeal had dismissed Anwar’s appeal against the High Court’s decision to deny him bail on the ground that the matter was not appealable to the Court of Appeal, Justice Chan’s 32-page written judgement had given two reasons why the Attorney-General should review the prosecution objection to the granting of bail to Anwar.
Firstly, Justice Chan said that there was only one ground of substance in Anwar’s appeal and it concerned the issue of the danger of witnesses being tampered with by Anwar.
He said: "It is most regrettable that the judge (Justice S.Augustine Paul) had to resort to a 50-year-old edition of Sohoni (Sohoni’s Code of Criminal Procedure) without realising that the editor of this well-known textbook had already revised the book on its views in later editions".
He said the edition relied upon by Justice Paul had stated that the "likelihood of interference with prosecution witnesses" was a strong reason to refuse bail.
In the revised 1997 edition, Sohoni had stated that bail "will not be refused merely on the basis of vague allegations" as it was not a sound reason.
Justice Chan said that "such an allegation (of witness tampering) is nothing more than the usual slogan which the prosecution raises in opposing bail".
Secondly, Justice Chan’s reference to judicial conscience and a renegade judge.
He said: "Since there is no appeal to the Court of Appeal from a decision of the High Court on a bail application, everything now will have to depend on the judicial conscience of the High Court judge who is to exercise his discretion, not in opposition to, but in accordance with the established principles of the law.
"But, what is there to discourage a renegade judge from exercising his discretion in opposition to established principles of law?
"Sadly, there is nothing that can be done under the law to correct such a miscarriage of justice!"
In fact, there is a third reason why the Attorney-General should review the prosecution objection to the granting of bail to Anwar.
Court of Appeal president, Tan Sri Lamin Yunus felt compelled to make an observation during the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of Anwar’s appeal and said that the "tremendous noise" caused by shouts everyday after Anwar’s trial was adjourned constituted "a breach of the peace".
He added that he could imagine the situation if Anwar was free to move about, commenting: "The police will have no option but to deploy extra manpower, more than what you can see around the court building since the commencement of the trial, of course, at the expense of public funds to maintain peace and order".
Several questions arise from Lamin’s observation. Firstly, is it "a breach of the peace" for Anwar’s supporters gathering near the courthouse and expressing their support? Secondly, had Lamin prejudged the matter when it was not a subject before the Court of Appeal? Thirdly, had Lamin mistaken the judicial functions with police responsibilities? Fourthly, even if the "tremendous noise" near the courthouse daily during Anwar’s trial tantamount to "a breach of the peace", what relevance has it to do with Anwar’s bail application?
Talk about "expense of public funds" seems to be quite out of place in this case, especially after the prosecution had wasted not only precious time of the court but also public funds when at the close of the 46-day trial, it amended the charges against Anwar to make about half of the trial proceedings irrelevant - not to mention the daily fashion parade outside the Court house!
There is a fourth reason why bail should now be given to Anwar - the establishment of the commission of inquiry - as Anwar should be allowed his freedom to prepare to help the commission establish who were the culprits who had perpetrated the lawlessness in the very inner sanctum of the police high command in Bukit Aman to ensure that this case does not end up as another "heinous crime with criminals"!
The latest developments in the Anwar case have caused greater disillusionment among Malaysians at the chasm between law and justice under the Malaysian legal system and plunged the crisis of confidence in the professionalism and integrity of the institutions of government to a new depth.
The chasm between law and justice is also to be seen in all aspects of government, including in another great controversy of the day, the highway tolls and privatisation programme.
Twelve years ago, in opposing the North-South Expressway privatisation to the United Engineers Malaysia (UEM) because of improprieties in the tender exercise, conflict of interest, lack of accountability and transparency and one-sided terms inimical to the interests of Malaysians for three decades, I coined the word "piratisation" to describe the most rapacious aspects of the Barisan Nasional privatisation programme.
In Parliament on July 8, 1987, in the debate on the Federal Roads (Private Management) Act Amendment Bill 1987 to enable the government to privatise the North-South Expressway, I said:
"Datuk Samy Vellu would be mortgaging the future generations of Malaysians for $31 billion if he signs the North-South Expressway contract with UEM later this month after the passage of the present Bill. This is not privatisation, but downright piratisation!"
In August 1987, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad stated that UEM, owned by UMNO trustee company, Hatibudi Sdn. Bhd., was chosen in order to finance the $360 million UMNO Headquarters, the Putra World Trade Centre.
Now, when the people protest against the unfair toll rate increases, the Works Minister, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu would plead that his hands are tied - but he did not mention that he had tied his own hands, signing the North-South Expressway Concession in 1988 while Karpal Singh and I were detained under the Internal Security Act at Kamunting Detention Centre - for having the temerity of trying to block the North-South Expressway concession, both in the court of public opinion as well as in the court of law!
This is another case of the chasm between law and justice. In
1987, I had said that Malaysia would never reach the position where it
could be said:
Unfortunately, we seemed to have now reached this position!
We must close this widening divide between law and justice in Malaysia. Let Malaysians speak loud and clear in the next general election that they want to close the huge chasm between law and justice in Malaysia to resolve the unprecedented crisis of confidence in the judiciary and the system of justice in the country
Let me end by quoting from Guan Eng’s latest writing from Kajang Prison,
in response to a very touching letter by a very outraged Malaysian
at the injustice meted out to him:
I have no regrets because the Government and Attorney General’s (AG) handling of that infamous rape of the underaged girl is simply wrong and unjust.
There is something inherently and intrinsically wrong when a rape victim can be detained for almost three years whilst her rapists need not serve a single day in jail. Similarly, it is completely and absolutely unjust for the AG to expose the rape victim to public humiliation by callously disclosing her sexual background, and prosecuting me after I had criticised him for failing to uphold the law.
Somehow the Government and the AG did not find it perverse nor a travesty of justice to punish the rape victim and me. Can the public then be blamed for perceiving that the rape victim was detained because she had the misfortune to be raped by the ‘wrong’ personalities?
At the risk of stating the obvious, punishing the rape victim instead of her rapists is wrong. If this is not wrong, then nothing else is wrong!
And yet, our Prime Minister, in all his wisdom, refused to see that a great wrong and injustice has been committed. One can only conclude that to Dr Mahathir Mohamed, the law is merely expediency, the truth is merely to spin, principles merely rhetoric and justice is merely power!
The firm basis of government is justice. Failure to uphold justice is not just a failure of government but also contrary to our basic values of right and wrong.
As such, I look upon the handcuffs I wear in prison not as a badge of shame but of standing up for right against wrong. It is this abiding faith that I had tried to do my duty that sustains me in prison.
A duty that looks upon such injustice as a wrong in direct contrast to the AG who views it not as a wrong but as politically expedient. This is the issue that will continue even after I am released from prison.
It is the eternal struggle between these two principles - right and wrong. They are the two principles that have stood face to face since time immemorial. One is the common right of justice and the other the divine right of kings.
Where we should stand is crystal clear. With the faith that right makes might, let us, in that faith, dare to do our duty to regenerate justice for all!
You have graciously pointed out that I was willing to pay the price for helping one who is not from my race. I had never looked at the underaged girl as a Malay or a Muslim per se, but as a poor unfortunate rape victim further victimised by the wheels of injustice.
When her grandmother sought my help, she had no one to turn to. Her plea was desperately human and her cries filled with righteous indignation. It would be uncompassionate not to respond.
Tonight, we are privileged to have with us a special guest, the "15-year-old victim of statutory rape" for whose honour, dignity, women’s right and human rights Guan Eng had defended and the reason why he is now languishing in Kajang Prison.
She is of course no more 15-year-old. She had gone through great trauma these past few years and it is most courageous for her to come here tonight to publicly add her voice to the call for justice for Guan Eng. She has signed two appeals, one to the Yang di Pertuan Agong and the other the Malacca Yang di Pertua Negeri, to urge for the pardon of Guan Eng - whose only crime was to stand up and defend the weak and helpless against the powerful and mighty.